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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Interview with Tony Beck

Inspirational and Pragmatic

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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We at Retire Early Lifestyle like to share with you the stories of Captivating Characters. Below you will find a very down-to-earth success story of a journey to financial independence and personal satisfaction. Enjoy our interview with Tony Beck!

On the equator in Uganda

Retire Early Lifestyle: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Age? What got you started investing? We hear that your Uncle was very instrumental in that part of your life. 

Tony Beck: I’m 43 years old, from Plano, TX and I’m a Texas Aggie! I was in construction management/estimating for about fifteen years before becoming a teacher four years ago. I recently moved to Panajachel, Guatemala to teach at the Robert Muller LIFE School.

TBeck: Yes, my uncle played a very big part in my financial education. When I was in high school, my uncle met with my parents to help them get on track financially. I was a junior in high school and they invited me to join them when they started talking about budgets and investing. I was fascinated….mutual funds, budgets, indexing and this thing called “compound interest.” Shortly after, once my uncle realized how interested I was, he gave me a couple of books to read, “The Wealthy Barber” and “The Richest Man in Babylon.” And that was the beginning of my journey to financial freedom.

REL: Do you consider yourself retired?

TBeck: No, I do not consider myself retired. I don’t think I will every “retire,” but, I am in a place in my life where I can make life changing decisions and not have money dictate what I can and cannot do. I’m not even to a place in my life where I can live off my savings yet, but I have a very strong financial foundation, so that money is not a major factor in my decision making. I call that, “financial freedom.” No debt (NO car/house/student/credit card), 12 month emergency fund, and a very hefty retirement/investment portfolio.

Tony and a Special Ed student/athlete after Special Olympics Basketball Game

REL: What do you do for income generation?

TBeck: Currently, I teach! I was teaching in the States, but now I find myself teaching on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. My school is a non-profit, so my pay is very low, but I’m able to earn extra money by teaching English online to students in China through VIPKids. Between these two streams of income, I’m able to live very comfortably here in Pana.

REL: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

TBeck: In 5 years, I see myself either still here in Pana, maybe still teaching at the school here, or maybe just teaching online, or, in another country teaching in a school/online. I like the thought of living and teaching in different countries. Cuenca, Ecuador is a strong possibility for me in the next few years. That’s what is so great about not being tied down with debt and have your finances in order, you have options to move, explore and live life on your terms!

 

REL: Can you share with us anything about how your portfolio is structured?

TBeck: My portfolio is broken up into taxable investments, my Roth IRA and TRS (Texas Teachers Retirement System). About 70% of my investments are with the Vanguard Group in index funds (35%-S&P 500, 30%-Mid-Cap, 20%-Small-Cap and 15%-International Index Funds) and the other 30% of my investments are in individual stocks (13 different stocks).

TBeck: I’ve only had stocks for about four years now, before that I was in 100% mutual funds. Personally, if one is going to invest in stocks, I would recommend people put no more than 20% of their portfolio into individual stocks; I’m in the process of beefing up my mutual funds as we speak. And for my emergency fund, well, that’s parked in a DiscoverBank.com money market account…a nice, boring, and safe place for emergency funds. 

Editors note: REL recommends no more than 4-5% in each individual issue.

Mara and Tony at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

REL: Do you plan to work park time or get community involved once you are retired?

TBeck: I’m pretty sure I will always be working for money off and on in some form or fashion, and I’d also like to get involved with the community wherever I live (international or in the US). By being a teacher, one inherently gets involved with the community, which is an aspect of teaching that I love: connecting with the community. Teaching is work, but it's also a passion of mine, and in a way, it’s part of who I am, so it doesn’t feel like work, but rather, like breathing.

REL: What has been your greatest challenge on your road to Early Retirement? Your biggest lesson?

TBeck: My biggest challenge has been to not try and keep up with the Joneses. Living in America, it seems like stuff is king and we often buy stuff as a way of saying, “Hey, look at me, look what I have.” Don’t get me wrong, I like stuff, I have to work at buying stuff that I need or can be put to good use, and not to turn into a status symbol.

TBeck: When I was driving my 13 year-old used Camry, paid for outright in cash, with a rusty dent in the hood and the interior upholstery hanging off the ceiling of the car, all while I was working in the construction industry, it was tough. I wanted a truck! I was working with these kids right out of college that were all driving a brand new Chevy or Ford pickup truck. I stuck out like a sore thumb, and many co-workers gave me a hard time, but that Camry is part of what allowed me to switch careers and move to Pana and helped bolster my retirement savings. Biggest lesson, when you screw up financially, don’t be so hard on yourself. Pay your stupid tax and move on down the road.

Summit of Mount Crested Butte, Crested Butte, Colorado

REL: What advice would you give to someone considering Early Retirement?

TBeck:  Advice for early retirement: #1 – Get a budget together. Stick with it. You have to learn to live within your means.  #2 - Get rid of any and all consumer debt (credit cards, student debts, auto loans, payday loans, etc.) You’ll need to minimize or stop your outflow of dollars. #3 -Find some ways to stay active and generate some income (passive and/or active income). #4 – SAVE, SAVE, SAVE Before you retire early, contribute enough to get all your company-matching dollars with your 401k, then max out your IRA, and then, if you have more to invest, put that towards your 401k... and if you have even more to invest after that, invest in a taxable account (Vanguard index funds). #5 – Get an emergency fund. I’m a fan of 1 year of expenses. Put in a money market that is not connected to your checking account.

REL: What would you say to someone who is considering tossing the conventional lifestyle and living one of travel? What advice would you give?

TBeck: My advice…If you want to live the traveling lifestyle, then learn to embrace fear and the unknown. There is a very thin line between fear and excitement, and that thin line is often where we find and experience what it means to be alive. My life in the States was comfortable, predictable and convenient... living internationally, one can still live a comfortable, predictable and convenient life, it’s just that these things look different in different parts of the world. Things that are “different” than what we are used to, are often scary to people. Embrace the difference, you might be surprised how much you like it.  

REL: Do you speak other languages?

TBeck: I’m currently learning Spanish. I’ve been studying for about 1 ½ years. If you want to learn a language, living in a country where they speak the language you want to learn is the way to go!

Solo back packing trip, Santa Fe, New Mexico

REL: What do you do about healthcare? Are you open to medical tourism?

TBeck: I have a policy that I bought through an insurance agency called Lifeboat Medical Insurance, they specialize in finding policies for Americans living out of the country. They found a plan that I like with Azimuth Risk Solutions. The coverage is great, works in the US 6 months out of the year and the annual premium was $720 for the entire year.

REL: Share with us your best money-saving secret.

TBeck: Don’t know if it’s my “best” secret, but it’s something I always encourage people to do when they ask. Let’s say you get paid on the 15th and 30th of each month. Now most people on the 15th and the 30th cash that check and start paying bills and buying stuff that very day. What I have always done, is when I get paid on the 15th and 30th, that money stays in the bank and funds the following month’s budget. I don’t touch it until the 1st of the following month. This does TWO things. 1) You no longer have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. You know exactly how much you have to spend that month. This is where a budget comes into play.  2) You automatically have a built-in one month emergency fund.

REL: What are your greatest passions in life?

TBeck: My passions, in no particular order of importance: 1) Traveling 2) Teaching kids 3) Teaching/coaching people to get on track financially 4) Outdoor Adventures: hiking, camping, ziplining, paragliding, whitewater rafting 5) Leaving the Joneses behind... but keeping my financial house in order.

Tony and Mara at the Taos Pueblo in Taos, New Mexico

REL: Do you have a home base or own a home?

TBeck: No, I currently do not own a home. I sold my home in 2012 to free up money and to free myself for an international leap. I have some furniture and items decorating my parent’s condo in Dallas and my car is at my parent’s house, and I sold a lot stuff before moving to Guatemala. At some point soon, my parents will sell my car for me. So I guess you could say that currently, my home base is Panajachel, Guatemala.

REL: Tell us about your greatest personal success, not necessarily finance related.

TBeck: My greatest personal success was leaving the construction industry and becoming a teacher. Commercial construction estimating/management was all I knew for over 15 years, and leaving something that was familiar to me and that paid VERY well, to go do something unfamiliar and at ½ the pay was scary, but this was the greatest decision I have ever made in my life. Teaching has opened so many doors to adventure for me… adventures with teaching kids, time off in the summers to explore and travel the world, and the opportunity to teach internationally.

 

REL: What is a secret fact about you?

TBeck: I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, Shawshank Redemption, X-Men and action/super-hero movies in general... But a secret fact about me, is that since about the 7th grade, one of my favorite movies has been the 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain” with Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Conner and Gene Kelly. I love it so much, that in 2012 I bought the 60th anniversary DVD set for the movie, which came with replica 1950’s movie posters and an actual Singin’ in the Rain umbrella.

(Editor's note: AWESOME!)

Sunset 11,800 FT on Volcán Acatenango, Guatemala

REL: What are you most proud of so far in life?

TBeck: There are a lot of different directions I could go with this question. Becoming a teacher is one, but I’ll make this about finances. In college, my Uncle Roger gave me a financial challenge when I graduated college. He challenged to do the following until I hit age 40 (18 years): 1) Max out your Roth IRA every year 2) Never have a car payment, buy used with cash and drive for 7-10 years 3) Never have any consumer debt what-so-ever (car, credit card, payday loan, etc..) 4) Create a monthly financial budget and stick with it 5) Contribute enough to your 401k and get all your company matching dollars 6) Save for all your vacations and don’t go until you have the money in the bank 7) If or when you buy a house, put 20% down.

TBeck: When I turned 40, I called my Uncle and told him that I had met his challenge. I had completed everything on his list for 18 years and I’m still doing it….and it’s made all the difference.

Enjoying Happy Hour with friends at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

REL: What do you do for fun or entertainment?

TBeck: For fun….I travel, travel, travel… explore, watch movies, camp/hike, play guitar/percussions, listen to music, and I play this game where I try to stay under budget each month, because with my surplus, I get to invest it, or use it to travel, or to help others... help out a friend or a person in need. That’s one of the greatest things about being financially healthy, you're able to afford to help people or wonderful organizations.

Retire Early Lifestyle would like to thank Tony for taking the time to answer these questions and to share his life with us, and with you, Our Readers.

About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Billy and Akaisha continue to journal and photograph their world travels.

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